Monthly Archives: December 2011

Zac Jack Bistro – Cameron Park

“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.”

— Adelle Davis

Zac Jack Bistro — Everyday gourmet cuisine
Back in July chef John Evans, co-owner and chef at Zachary Jacques Country French Cuisine near Diamond Springs, opened Zac Jack Bistro at 3275 Coach Lane in Cameron Park. Since then I have eaten there a half-dozen times and always really enjoyed the food, service and atmosphere.

The restaurant is a family friendly (yes, there is a kid’s menu) bistro, serving upscale food at affordable prices in a pleasant atmosphere. Breakfast is served daily, starting at 8 a.m. and continuing until 2 p.m. At 11 a.m. the menu expands to include more lunch items like croques (French grilled sandwiches), several varieties of unique wood-fired pizza and more. At 4 p.m. the dinner items are added, including small plates (appetizers) and entrées.

“It was the perfect opportunity,” said Evans when asked why he opened a second restaurant. “Here was a place that was fully equipped, had an open kitchen and a wood fired pizza oven, every California chef’s dream. It also seats 105 inside and an additional 45 outside, which will be usable this winter when the fire tables shortly arrive.”

When asked if there were any difficulties in opening a new restaurant, Evans replied very frankly, “Of course there are problems in this area. We don’t have a large culinary draw, in other words, there are not a lot of experienced chefs or servers around as a large number of our young people leave the area to find work. When you get good people you do your best to keep them.

“The first four weeks a restaurant is open you are continually educating your staff and fine tuning the menu to the kitchen and your customers. They are the worst days, but is the time when you learn who your clientele is and listen. We were surprised, but delighted, to find that about 70 percent of our customers are women.

“When people ask me about the restaurant industry, I tell them it is what I call ‘controlled chaos.’ You are never sure how many customers you are going to have, you are never sure if your suppliers are going to get your order to you on time or complete and a lot of things can go wrong in the kitchen and dining room. You can’t be running down to the grocery store all the time to get supplies. Murphy’s Law is an everyday situation. If something can go wrong it will. You have to be prepared at all times and love the business. I find it exciting.”

Everyday gourmet cuisine means simply that Zac Jack Bistro serves large portions of delicious California cuisine, prepared using classic French cooking techniques and farm fresh ingredients. The breakfast menu includes such items as cinnamon swirl brioche French toast, banana boysenberry pancakes, apple wood smoked bacon and eggs, a half-pound ham steak and eggs, boar bock sausage and eggs and filet of beef, hash and eggs.

Lunch includes soup (try the two-day, slow cooked French onion soup), a number of delicious salads, gourmet pizzas from the wood-fired oven and a number of croques, including short ribs and cheese, with blue cheese slaw, crispy onion rings and Bordelaise dipping sauce (very delicious); mushroom ragout and cheese with black truffle aioli, shrimp remoulade grilled cheese with apple bacon guacamole and more.

The dinner menu includes the pizza, salads and croques, along with a number of small plates, or appetizers, like shrimp “Mac ‘N’ Cheese,” house cured green olives and seasonal vegetables, house made sausage trio with baguette, Basque style chicken wings (loved those, too) and cheese board and more. The entrées include crispy sauté salmon (outstanding, crisp on the outside, moist inside), brined wood oven roasted chicken, boneless red trout almandine, beef boneless short ribs (so delicious it will bring a smile to your mouth), a gourmet burger made with American Kobe beef and one of my very favorites, a grilled brined boneless double pork chop (prepared, very tender and moist).

If you have eaten at Zachary Jacques then you are familiar with the signature dessert, Gateau Saint Honoré, a rich, pastry-cream filled cake. In addition to other outstanding desserts, Zac Jack serves several different decadent varieties of these, designed for one, but get two or three spoons and share it.

Lynnette Evans, co-proprietor, has created an excellent wine list with selections from El Dorado County, France and around the world, along with foreign and domestic beers, to complement the meal.

Zac Jack Bistro is open daily from 8 a.m. until closing and can be reached at 530- 676-2969. Check on the two for $20 lunches and Tuesday “Ladies Night Out” specials.

Placerville Natural Foods Cooperative – Placerville

“If organic farming is the natural way, shouldn’t organic produce just be called ‘produce’ and make the pesticide-laden stuff take the burden of an adjective?”

— Ymber Delecto

 

 

Placerville Natural Foods Cooperative
Some time ago I stopped by Noah’s Ark Natural Foods, at 535 Placerville Drive, to see what the store had to offer. I had known the owner, David Harde, since he first started showing up at the farmers market when it was still at the bi-monthly flea market at the fairgrounds. He always had quality produce to sell and I wasn’t surprised when he opened the store.

I had been at the store to buy things before, but up until just a couple of years ago had never taken the time to look around. I was impressed with the amount of goods they had in the building, which at one time was a pizza parlor.

About a month ago the store became the Placerville Natural Foods Cooperative or co-op. I am familiar with the cooperatives in Sacramento and Davis, so I decided to stop by and check the place out.

It looked about the same, but was I told by cashier Marvin Caravalho, that they have been adding new items. Caravalho was also kind enough to give me a tour and point out a number of things I had missed. The manager, Melisa Clark, was not there.

If you haven’t been into a cooperative or a store like Placerville Natural Foods Cooperative, you will find they are quite different from regular stores. They are kind of a cross between a health food store, a farmers market and most everything in between.

When they say something is grown locally, they mean here, in the surrounding counties and the San Joaquin Valley, not from some far away corner of California. And, as much as possible, it comes from sustainable farms.

I won’t go into the workings of the co-op, but membership is open to anyone and, after joining, you receive discounts. You can also volunteer and receive additional benefits.

The co-op provides the community with natural foods, certified organic produce and meat, organic milk and milk products, vegan meat substitutes, natural vitamins and supplements, organic canned and frozen foods, gluten free and raw foods, natural beauty items, natural cleaning items, natural pet foods and more.

To point out a few items, the deli has quite a selection of sandwiches, breads, baked goods and cheeses, most produced very locally. They also have fresh, store made soup and a number of other hot, ready to eat main dishes to take home. I arrived late in the afternoon, when the food was gone, but I have eaten there before and really enjoyed the food.

As a baker, I was very impressed with the bulk grains and flours. There must be a hundred or more large containers of organic cereals, nuts and flours, the flour list alone including spelt, oat, semolina, corn, soy and quinoa, among others. Nearby was also a row of bulk culinary herbs.

Next to that was the produce section. Everything looks fresh and, as I mentioned one time before, the potatoes are covered with black towels so they are not exposed to light.

They also stock local honey (good for some allergies, I’m told) and some very popular cheeses made in our county. While I was there two people came in looking just for the cheese.

It was also pointed out to me several locally produced items with the “Health Nut Products” label: “heart healthy, earth friendly and all natural” are at the store. You can check those out at healthnutbetty.com. They also have a number of locally produced pasta items from The Pasta Queen.

Then there is the large selection of organic and fair traded coffees and a huge number of micro-brewery beers, along with local organic wines.

I could go on for pages and pages and, by not doing so, have probably left out a number of important things, but you need to stop by and check it out for yourself.

The Placerville Natural Foods Co-op is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information call 530-621-3663 or visit placervillecoop.org.